Politics

Abbreviated pundit roundup: Texas, Trump’s taxes, and more

We begin today’s roundup with analysis of the crisis in Texas. First up, Paul Krugman at The New York Times:

The collapse of the Texas power grid didn’t just reveal a few shortcomings. It showed that the entire philosophy behind the state’s energy policy is wrong. And it also showed that the state is run by people who will resort to blatant lies rather than admit their mistakes.

Texas isn’t the only state with a largely deregulated electricity market. It has, however, pushed deregulation further than anyone else. There is an upper limit on wholesale electricity prices, but it’s stratospherically high. And there is essentially no prudential regulation — no requirements that utilities maintain reserve capacity or invest in things like insulation to limit the effects of extreme weather.

Naomi Klein:

Blame right-wing panic. For decades, the Republicans have met every disaster with a credo I have described as “the shock doctrine.” When disaster strikes, people are frightened and dislocated. They focus on handling the emergencies of daily life, like boiling snow for drinking water. They have less time to engage in politics and a reduced capacity to protect their rights. They often regress, deferring to strong and decisive leaders — think of New York’s ill-fated love affairs with then-Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the 9/11 attacks and Gov. Andrew Cuomo in the early months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Large-scale shocks — natural disasters, economic collapse, terrorist attacks — become ideal moments to smuggle in unpopular free-market policies that tend to enrich elites at everyone else’s expense. Crucially, the shock doctrine is not about solving underlying drivers of crises: It’s about exploiting those crises to ram through your wish list even if it exacerbates the crisis.

On the topic of Merrick Garland, Robin Givhan analyzes Garland’s nomination hearing:

As Democrats and Republicans posed their questions, the thrust of each side’s interrogation made clear the partisan split over what it means to put justice into practice. For most of the Republicans on the committee, justice seemed wholly defined as punishment: why certain people deserve it, how harsh it can be, why it shouldn’t be even harsher and whether Hunter Biden will get his fair share of it.

They are champions of law and order, especially when it comes to making sure that left-wing antagonists, such as those who attacked the federal courthouse in Portland last year or who brought down Confederate monuments, are punished. But they were a bit less righteous, a bit more wobbly on topics such as white supremacy within police departments and the military. The scourge of systemic racism seems to especially elude the Republicans who, on Jan. 6, voted to annul the legally cast ballots of thousands of Black and Brown citizens. These senators said they were standing up for law and order. Disenfranchisement was punishment for a made-up crime. That was their version of justice.

Dana Milbank says the hearing showed “there’s a new sheriff in town”:

It was a clear message to the violent white supremacists and other domestic terrorists who thrived during the Trump years, most visibly in their attack on the Capitol last month: There’s a new sheriff in town. Garland vowed that domestic terrorism “will be my first priority” as attorney general and promised to “do everything in the power of the Justice Department” to stop it. 

For four years, President Donald Trump railed about “law and order” while breaking the former and undermining the latter. In Garland, we see a restoration of actual law and order. Timothy McVeigh’s prosecutor has the backing of groups such as the Fraternal Order of Police, but he’s also determined to fight discrimination, as he explained during Monday’s hearing.

On the topic of Donald Trump’s taxes, here’s Jonathan Chait’s take:

Journalists have pieced together enough about various Trump financial dealings to demonstrate the high likelihood that he has committed a series of financial crimes. There is probably enough to charge him even without the tax forms. Giving Vance still more information certainly can’t help Trump.

His outpouring of rage that Manhattan district attorney Cyrus Vance will finally have access to his financial documents suggests the only plausible reason for Trump’s evident dismay: He is very scared of being charged with crimes.

And, on a final note, Jennifer Rodgers at CNN dives more into the implications of the Supreme Court decision on access to Trump’s taxes:

while untangling eight years of complicated financial transactions can take time, Vance’s team likely is not starting from ground zero, even with respect to documents that Trump is being forced to turn over for the first time. Not only have investigators learned a lot about Trump’s potential criminality from their independent probe over the last year and a half, it’s entirely possible that prosecutors already had access to the tax returns and some of the other information that the former president’s accountants will now officially release.  The fact is, prosecutors and their investigators have sources, just like reporters do, and if the New York Times got copies of Trump’s tax returns, Vance’s team may have as well.




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